Mariah Carey, Nicki Minaj

Michael Becker / FOX

Do reality shows get more compelling after their villains are cast out? Did any show get better after Shannen Doherty was exiled from it? 

If good chemistry sells, bad chemistry electrifies. 

And American Idol, home of Tuesday's Nicki Minaj-Mariah Carey judges'-table bout, just became a live wire again.

Ryan Seacrest on Minaj-Carey: "It was intense"

Usually, we think of bad chemistry as being bad—like, Hayden Christensen and Natalie Portman in the Star Wars prequels, voted worst screen couple in a poll of film fans. But that's not bad chemistry, that's no chemistry (aided and abetted by George Lucas love lines).

On the contrary, bad chemistry makes for fireworks—think Richard Gere triumphantly walking off with Debra Winger in An Officer and a Gentleman, and then recall Winger trashing the film as one of the worst experiences of her life.

Bad chemistry or good chemistry, it's all chemistry, agrees Matthew Harrison, an acting teacher and cofounder of Actor's Foundry in Vancouver, British Columbia. And it's vital.

Flashback: Minaj calls Carey a "legend"

"That means people are connected to each other," Harrison says.

And to the audience, too.

Says Harrison: "It is utterly fascinating to watch chemistry under play."

That it is.

Chemistry experiments that go well can result in something beautiful, like original-formula Coca-Cola. Chemistry experiments that go bad can end in fiery explosions, like Minaj offering to pop Carey upside the head.

Both kinds work.

As the ratings proved, we, the TV nation, rather enjoyed the conviviality of Randy Jackson, Jennifer Lopez and Steven Tyler.

Of course, we also liked it when people threw things—dirty looks, water, etc.—at Simon Cowell.

Good chemistry, bad chemistry, it's all chemistry.

So, thank you, Dr. Minaj, for putting a charge into the 11-going-on-12-year-old Idol. Just please don't really knock out anybody. That's a little bit too much connection.

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